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Braising vs. Stewing (What’s the Difference?)

Braising and stewing are some of the most popular ways to cook meat. But which one is better?

We looked into some similarities and differences to help you develop the best ideas available to each and what works best for them while at the burners.

Similarities and Differences Between Braising and Stewing

Braising and stewing are mostly the same thing in comparison to how the preparer cooks the meats. Both are ways to cook cheaper and tougher cuts of meat to tender perfection.

Braising and stewing are two different, yet similar, methods of cooking meat. In braising, the meat is browned in fat on the stovetop and then slow-simmered in a small amount of liquid. In stewing, meat and vegetables are simmered fully-submerged in liquid on the stovetop.

Both stewing and braising are cooked over a slow heat for an extended period. Usually, the cooking times range from six to eight hours.

When it comes to stewing meat, the meat is cut into bite-sized pieces and simmered in liquid. Vegetables are added about an hour and a half to two hours before the flame is turned off.

Chefs often refer to braising as “pot roasting.” In braising, the meat is whole and thrown into the pot. It is more or less fried or browned in fat or oil. The meat will not be cut until closer to the end of the braising.

Which One Should I Go For?

Both braising and stewing will have a clean flavor of the sauce, and the meat will be tender for both. The challenge lies in both stewing and braising as not to lose the moisture within the meat.

Many people will believe that cutting the meat before makes it easier to cook. This is not always the case, and it does not make it more moist or tender.

Keeping the water level over the top is the key—and the well-kept secret—to keeping the moisture level in the meat on the upside. Stewing meat only makes it easier because you do not have to stop cooking to cut the meat toward the end, like when braising.

The chef wants to dissolve as much of the connective tissue as possible while maintaining tenderness and moisture levels. Choosing which is preferred depends on the bite sizes and what the meat is cooked with. 

Beef stew is usually cut into one-inch cubes and cooked with potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables. Braised foods like pot roast will have the meat altogether at the end of the cooking time and are usually cut before being served.

Types of Meat to Braise or Stew

Beef is favored among many when it comes to braising or stewing. Chuck roast or rump roast is the best meats to stew or braise. Both require a browning process, and how long is determined by how much the beef weighs at the beginning stage.

To get a good beef stew going, beef tips are the best to slow cook. Braising is best with any type of roast. We can say a casual four-pound cut of meat is easy to figure out when cooking. We can almost say it is frying the meat when we are browning it. Approximately 20 minutes per pound is the best way to figure on browning.

When browning, always make sure the meat is not sticking to the bottom of the pot. Figure about every ten minutes to move the meat around and add very little water to keep it from burning. For almost an hour and a half, you will be browning the meat with a four-pound cut of beef.

Continue Cooking the Beef

Browning is where the heart and soul of the gravy or sauce come from. 

Once the meat is browned on all sides, it is time for slow cooking. Browning usually happens over medium to medium-high heat. Before simmering, you want to bring the pot to a boil.

Keep the lid off when bringing to a boil and once it begins to boil, lower the flame to a simmer and cover the pot. This process will continue to stew or braise the meat while slow cooking. It allows the tough pieces to tenderize and breaks apart the muscles to where the meat will become tender as you cut into it or bite into it.

Slow cookers are designed to carry out the same process; however, as you cook on the stove with a low flame or heat, the same effects occur. 

The end results will be the same.

Types of Pots

You may ask what the best pot to use when braising or stewing is.

Magnalite pots are favored, but, since they’re no longer in production, you can also use a cast-iron pot or an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. They make the best gravy and sauce and cook the meat evenly. Cooking everything evenly is the primary goal when cooking.

Any pot will work great, but, sometimes, the cast-iron pot makes the meat’s hearty flavors. This is when the pot is known as “seasoned.” The flavors remain from previous dishes to season the pot, and the taste is enhanced with every bite.

To simmer or slow cooker works best when the pot is covered. This keeps all the heat and moisture inside the pot as it continues to tenderize the meat. It is not wise to leave a crack in the lid or leave the cover off altogether.

If the lid is kept off, the moisture all removes itself from the pot. This will keep you having to add water which also removes the flavor. This is something you want to avoid.

Tips While Cooking

Simmering or slow cooking can bring a beautiful aroma to a kitchen and home. We are tempted to constantly want to look inside the pot as the process of cooking takes place. It is not wise to continually open the lid to view the contents inside.

The more we open the lid, the more the temperature changes. It is best to leave the slow cooking to do its job. We do not want to make the process longer than necessary.

Last, if braising, never cut the meat straight away after removing it from the pot. Instead, give it time to cure about 30 minutes before cutting into it. Doing so before wait time is over can cause the moisture to leave and make the meat dry. This is the last thing you want after cooking for so long.